Nysius natalensis Evans (Hemiptera: Orsillidae) is a pest of sunflower in South Africa. Adults invade sunflower fields from their weedy hosts. The host plant suitability for development and survival and the effect of between-generation host switching were studied on different wild host plants and sunflower. Parameters used to assess host plant suitability were nymphal development, head widths, mean mass, and survival. Nymphs and adults were provided with crushed seed of five host plants, as well as a combination of seeds of the five species. Duration of the nymphal stage, development and mortality, and mean development time to adult were recorded. Between-generation host switching was studied by providing first-instar nymphs (F2) with seed of either the same plant species or transferred to different ones. Mean mass and mean head widths of adults (F2) were determined. The food source during the first and second generation, as well as the interaction thereof, has a significant effect on head widths of resultant males and females, as well as on female mass, but first-generation food did not have a significant effect on male mass. Feeding the F2 on sunflower proved to be beneficial to the false chinch bug, as it provided the heaviest males and females as well as females with the biggest head widths. Lack of constant availability of moisture had a detrimental effect on longevity. Host plant switching to sunflower likely happens as a result of senescence of wild host plants prior to winter.
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Vol. 44 • No. 1